Pat Neville Not So Keen On Lebsock After All

Rep. Steve Lebsock (D-Thornton).

We noted yesterday the announcement by accused serial harasser Rep. Steve Lebsock of Adams County that he would leave the Democratic House caucus, and praise he got from prominent Republicans that seemed to open the door to Lebsock seeking a haven in that party–either formally with a party change, or perhaps to caucus with the Republican Party in the House. Minority Leader Patrick Neville seemed to further crack the door open during his opening day remarks calling for “due process” for those accused of sexual harassment.

But as 9NEWS’ Brandon Rittiman reports today, Republicans might not be so eager for Lebsock to join their caucus after all:

As of Thursday morning, Lebsock is still a registered Democrat, according to the Secretary of State’s office.

The move to leave the Democratic caucus is less significant. It’s little more than a symbolic protest on Lebsock’s part because party caucuses have no direct power in Colorado’s legislative process…

Inside the Capitol, the GOP doesn’t seem welcoming of Lebsock.

Republican House Minority Leader Patrick Neville told 9NEWS in a statement that it’s “highly doubtful the caucus would be supportive” if the Democrat tried to join their ranks. [Pols emphasis]

Two things to point out here: in the past few days, Lebsock has engaged in a series of actions apparently in an attempt at self-defense that have in fact severely worsened his position–including a 28-page “manifesto” distributed to the press and fellow legislators in which Lebsock luridly impugns the credibility of several of his accusers. Whatever good Lebsock was hoping to accomplish for his defense from distributing this bizarre and offensive document, which we have chosen not to share with the public, safe to say has not materialized.

In fact, it’s so vile that there are no polite words to describe the reaction it has generally received.

The second point is that Republicans have a very serious problem with sexual harassment under the Gold Dome whether they like it or not–and unlike the two accused Democrats who have been bounced from their committee chairs in the House, Sen. Jake Tate and Sen. Randy Baumgardner have received no discipline whatsoever. They continue to chair committees, and Baumgardner is in fact the prime sponsor of the Senate’s showcase transportation bill.

So yes, as nice as that seat pickup would be, maybe Republicans don’t need another harassment problem. They can start with addressing the ones they have.

Where does that leave Steve Lebsock? Sulking in a corner out of grabbing range, we hope.

Rep. Lori Saine Just Can’t Help Herself

Rep. Lori Saine (R), in custody after being arrested at DIA with a loaded gun.

Last month, Republican state Rep. Lori Saine was arrested at Denver International Airport after bringing a loaded 9mm semiautomatic pistol into an airport security checkpoint concealed in her purse. Saine was arrested after requesting an attorney during police questioning, and was released the next after a court appearance.

After an investigation by the Boulder DA, no charges were filed. Rep. Saine didn’t knowingly bring her pistol into the security checkpoint, and Boulder County DA Stan Garnett gave her the benefit of the doubt. We have no doubt Rep. Saine is relieved to have escaped without charges that could have, among other things, made it more difficult for her to own guns.

But much like ex-Rep. Jared Wright, now the General Manager of the Colorado Springs Gazette’s politics blog who left a loaded handgun in a House hearing room back in 2014, this will not go down in history as a model of responsible gun ownership.

That’s Republican donor and ex-House candidate Rick Enstrom rightly condemning Saine’s negligence after her arrest. But sometime between then and now, whatever contrition Rep. Saine may have had after her arrest for being careless with her gun seems to have evaporated:

Because Rep. Lori Saine is a prime sponsor of legislation introduced this week to repeal Colorado’s 2013 law limiting magazine capacity to 15 rounds. This is the same legislation that Saine has sponsored for several years running now, part of the annual futile exercise mounted each year by Colorado Republicans to placate pro-gun voters by making a run at the 2013 gun control bills passed in the wake of the Aurora theater shooting.

Yes, Rep. Saine’s bill was always going to die in the House State Affairs Committee like it has each year. But this time, there may well be a discussion about hypocrite lawmakers who can’t keep their own guns safe. Like ex-Rep. Wright and Rep. Saine. As the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Saine will be sitting right there in testimony while her own irresponsible actions are held up as grounds for killing any bill she offers on the subject of guns.

Because to any outside observer, this is madness.

Caption This Photo: Der Marschall und der Gefreite

From the floor of the Colorado House this morning ahead of Gov. John Hickenlooper’s State of the State address:

Pictured together for posterity: the state’s most hard-line anti-immigrant gubernatorial candidate, Tom Tancredo, conferring with the state’s most hard-line anti-immigrant member of the state legislature, Rep. “Self-Hatin'” Dave Williams.

Just imagine what these two would say to each other. Go ahead, because it just happened!

Get More Smarter on Thursday (January 11)

Your three-day weekend is almost here. It’s time to Get More Smarter. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of a visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show.



► The Colorado legislature reconvened on Wednesday with much speechifying from leaders in each chamber, and a renewed focus on sexual harassment charges against several lawmakers (including another thoroughly embarrassing day for State Rep. Steve Lebsock). House Democrats outlined their legislative priorities with several early bills, while Senate Republicans are pretending to be focused on transportation issues.

Elsewhere, Governor John Hickenlooper today delivers his final “State of the State” address.


► Congressman Mike Coffman (R-Aurora) does not want to campaign with President Trump in 2018. Unless he does.


► The Trump administration is pushing the idea of work requirements for Medicaid recipients. From the Washington Post:

The Trump administration issued guidance to states early Thursday that will allow them to compel people to work or prepare for jobs in order to receive Medicaid for the first time in the half-century history of this pillar of the nation’s social safety net.

The letter to state Medicaid directors opens the door for states to cut off Medicaid benefits to Americans unless they have a job, are in school, are a caregiver, volunteer or participate in other approved forms of “community engagement” — an idea that some states had broached over the past several years but that the Obama administration had consistently rebuffed.

The new policy comes as 10 states are already lined up, waiting for federal permission to impose work requirements on able-bodied adults in the program. Three other states are contemplating them. Health officials could approve the first waiver — probably for Kentucky — as soon as Friday, according to two people with knowledge of the process.

The idea that Medicaid recipients do not already work is more of a conservative talking point than a reality.


► President Trump’s uncontrollable Twitter habit is causing new problems for Congressional Republicans. As NBC News explains:

Congress moved Thursday toward renewing a critical intelligence program despite a morning of confusion prompted by President Donald Trump’s tweets, in which he appeared to support significant changes that his administration had worked for months to rebuff.

The House voted on a bipartisan basis to renew intelligence agencies’ broad authority to monitor terrorist and foreign adversary communications under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA; the measure now heads to the Senate for a vote…

…Though the White House on Wednesday strongly urged lawmakers to defeat the reform amendment, Trump appeared to take a different position in a tweet Thursday morning. He called FISA “controversial” and claimed without offering evidence that the program may have been used to “so badly surveil [sic] and abuse” his presidential campaign.

For nearly two hours, lawmakers and members of his own administration scrambled to explain the comment.

Trump later backtracked on his early-morning Tweet. Earlier this week a federal judge cited several of Trump’s Tweets as part of a decision to block the administration’s attempt at phasing out the DACA program.



Get even more smarter after the jump…


Coffman on Campaigning With Trump: Maybe In Six Months!

Rep. Mike Coffman (R).

A story from Buzzfeed News late yesterday is raising eyebrows in Colorado after some fascinating quotes from Rep. Mike Coffman on the matter of campaigning with President Donald Trump this year–would it help Coffman? Would it hurt him?

“Each district is different, and probably in mine it probably wouldn’t be helpful,” Colorado Republican Rep. Mike Coffman, who represents a swing district that is a perennial Democratic target, told BuzzFeed News.

That position, though, is rarely said openly, with some Republicans careful to avoid publicly belittling a president who closely tracks slights. Coffman, just moments after making those comments, flagged BuzzFeed News down again to clarify. “Right now I don’t think it would be helpful. I don’t know what the future’s gonna be, I mean, who knows what it’s gonna be, six months from now whether it would be helpful or not,” [Pols emphasis] he said. “Certainly today it would not be. I mean, right now it would not be helpful.”

Given that Mike Coffman ran in 2016 arguably the most anti-Trump Republican campaign of anyone who wasn’t running against Trump, it’s quite a shock to see him equivocate about whether Trump would be a help on the campaign trail–enough that he left the door open to doing so if Trump’s political fortunes were to improve. In a district that Hillary Clinton carried by nine points in 2016, Coffman’s waffling on this essential question doesn’t help him politically at all.

In fact, Coffman’s need to “flag down” this reporter to clarify that he might be okay with campaigning with Trump “six months from now” invites the charge that his values shift with the prevailing winds.

Which, our readers know, his critics on both sides have said since 2011.

Hick’s Swan Song State of the State

UPDATE: Denver Post:

Hickenlooper spoke at length about the plight of rural Colorado, singling out issues such as teacher shortages, jobs and rural broadband, as well as a hidden financial force that is steadily eroding the ability of rural communities to pay for public services. Next year, the Gallagher Amendment will trigger further reductions to property tax rates across the state, providing property tax relief to the Front Range but squeezing rural governments and school districts that are already struggling financially…

On economic development, the governor called for an expansion of apprentice programs, something he has long been pushing for. And he advocated for the continued expansion of renewable energy, even as Republicans are pushing to refocus the state Energy Office on carbon-based fuels like coal and gas and cut its budget by $1 million.

“What is it the critics don’t like?” he asked. “Is it the cleaner air or the lower utility bills?”


Watch it here, and we’ll update with coverage after:

Thursday Open Thread

“There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.”

–Elie Wiesel

Lebsock Ditches Dems; GOP Welcomes Alleged Serial Harasser

THURSDAY UPDATE: Having waxed a little tongue-in-cheek about all of this yesterday (see below), we’re obliged to clarify that Rep. Steve Lebsock has not formally left the Democratic Party–at least not yet. Departure from the Democratic caucus combined with a warm welcome from Republicans makes that seem likely, but we’ll watch for the formalities to catch up.

State Rep. Steve Lebsock.

Outside the Colorado Capitol today, a protest against sexual harassment after widespread allegations rocked the Colorado General Assembly over the past few months as the Denver Post reports:

A small protest on the opening day of the 2018 legislative session calling for the resignation of a Democratic lawmaker embroiled in allegations of sexual harassment quieted doubts about whether the scandals that rattled the Colorado Capitol late last year will color the 120-day term.

The protesters outside the statehouse demanded the resignation of Rep. Steve Lebsock after fellow Democratic Rep. Faith Winter leveled accusations in November that he discussed sexual acts and grabbed her elbow to get her to leave with him from a 2016 legislative party.

But a funny thing happened today on the way to holding accused serial harasser Rep. Steve Lebsock accountable. Colorado Republicans stepped in to stand up for Lebsock:

On the opening day of the new legislative session Wednesday, Neville said he shares a sense of outrage about stories of bad behavior. However, he said that when accusations are made in the building where state law is made, due process must be followed so the complaints are fairly and objectively handled.

Minority Leader Patrick Neville’s opening statement giving Lebsock the benefit of the doubt despite accusations from nearly a dozen women resulted in what appears to be Lebsock’s departure from the Democratic House caucus. Denver7’s Blair Miller:

“There are 11 of us on record, and this isn’t a Faith versus Steve story,” [Cassie] Tanner said. “This is about acceptable behavior and standing up to bullies, and I’m honored to have these two women standing next to me today.”

Later Wednesday, Lebsock tweeted that he wouldn’t be caucusing with his own party during this year’s session, and said, referring to the moments when Duran addressed the situation in her speech: “Thank you to several Republican House members coming up to me and giving me hugs.” [Pols emphasis]

And in a move we can only call extraordinary, Colorado Republicans appear to be welcoming Lebsock with open arms:

That’s Rick Enstrom, a principal at Enstrom’s Toffee and top-tier local Republican donor cheering on Lebsock’s announcement that he will caucus with the Republican Party in the House this legislative session. Combined with Neville’s extension of a lifeline to Lebsock in his speech today, Lebsock’s immediate future in the Colorado General Assembly appears to be settled. We have no idea if the House Republicans will now give Lebsock committee assignments, or what this will mean for Lebsock’s run for Treasurer as a Democrat. But because House Democrats have a solid majority, Lebsock took his seat this morning on the Republican side of the aisle.

And now it’s a perfect fit! Democrats were outraged when they heard the news…except no, they weren’t.

With everything taking place today in the movement for accountability for sexual harassment throughout society, and an emerging gulf between Democrats aggressively policing their ranks and a Republican Party led by the “P—y Grabber-In-Chief,” we have to say that Lebsock switching to the Republican caucus makes a particularly damning kind of sense. We’d say this will do wonders for attracting the p—y grabbing vote, but let’s face it: Republicans already have that vote sewn up.

So yes, good luck to Rep. Lebsock as he leaves the Democratic House caucus of the Colorado General Assembly in order to stave off his day of reckoning. Democrats won’t be sorry to see him go, and Republicans have so much brand damage in this regard that you could argue it can hardly get any worse. But we believe this development will help voters make their choice between the parties in downballot races this November.

Because both parties have bad actors, but only one is emerging as a haven for them.

House Democrats Introduce First Bills of 2018 Session

That’s a lot of Bills

The Colorado legislature reconvened today for its traditional first-day activities of speechifying and back-patting, but there was some actual policy discussion to go along with the pomp.

House Democrats introduced their legislative priorities for 2018 with five bills, emphasizing “work-life balance, rural education, the opioid epidemic and college education credits,” according to a press release. A total of 72 bills were introduced in the House today, but these are the highlights from the House Democrats:

– HB18-1001/Reps. Faith Winter, D-Westminster, and Matt Gray, D-Broomfield – Creates an insurance programs that allows more Coloradans to take paid time off to care for a sick parent or loved one without having to quit their jobs, or risk being fired.

– HB18-1002/Reps. Millie Hamner, D-Dillon, and Bob Rankin, R-Carbondale – Enables students in the final year of a teacher preparation program to receive stipends for teaching in rural school districts with teacher shortages. The first of several bills to address the rural teacher shortage.

– HB18-1003/Rep. Brittany Pettersen, D-Lakewood – Authorizes grants for education, screening, intervention and prevention services to address the opioid epidemic, which is now the leading cause of accidental death among Coloradans 55 years of age and under. Part of a package of opioids bills from a bipartisan interim committee being brought by Reps. Pettersen, Chris Kennedy, D-Lakewood, and Jonathan Singer, D-Longmont.

– HB18-1004/Rep. James Coleman, D-Denver – Extends a tax credit for donations to child care facilities to help increase the availability of quality child care providers in Colorado.

– HB18-1005/Reps. Brittany Pettersen, D-Lakewood, and Jon Becker, R-Fort Morgan – Expands notification to students and their parents about concurrent enrollment opportunities, so high school students can get a jump on their college educations.


Gardner Qualifies Threat To Hold Justice Department Nominees

Sen. Cory Gardner (R).

Denver7’s Blair Miller reports after Sen. Cory Gardner’s much-anticipated meeting today with Attorney General Jeff Sessions about federal marijuana policy–as readers know, Sessions last week rescinded the Cole Memorandum that allowed for a hands-off approach to enforcement of federal law in states where marijuana is legalized. In response, Gardner announced a hold on all Justice Department nominees until the guidance in Cole was reinstated:

Attorney General Jeff Sessions wasn’t swayed to immediately change his mind about his decision to rescind the Cole Memo after Wednesday’s meeting with Sen. Cory Gardner despite the Colorado Republican’s threat to withhold Justice Department nominees.

“I think the meeting kind of went as I expected it to,” Gardner told Denver7 after the Wednesday morning summit. “I shared my states’ rights position with Attorney General Sessions, and he shared his concern about the Cole Memorandum and why he rescinded it, and he also reiterated that the US attorneys will be in the position to make these determinations.”

Sessions agreed to meet with Gardner Wednesday after Gardner loudly balked at the decision to rescind the 2013 memo that protects states where marijuana is legal from extraneous federal enforcement.

Gardner has also told Sessions he will hold up Justice Department nominees until Sessions took a step back, though he admitted Tuesday that if the nominees have “overwhelming support” that it would “be difficult to stop them.” [Pols emphasis]

As of today, Blair reports, Gardner’s Justice Department holds remain–but this last statement signals clearly that Gardner’s holds either won’t last long or won’t matter. For all the praise Gardner received after making his bellicose threats last Friday, that would be a sheepish end that should get at least as much press attention.

Because as it turns out, maybe he really didn’t deserve all that praise.

With that said, it would be a mistake to rule out entirely the possibility that legislation to tie the Justice Department’s hands in legal marijuana states will come about as a result of Sessions’ threats. As of now, Gardner has paid only lip service to the protection of Colorado’s marijuana industry–and without the kind of confrontation marijuana supporters hoped Gardner would lead against Sessions last week, the most likely outcome now is an uneasy status quo that may well outlast Sessions’ tenure as Attorney General.

We’ll say it again and again: talk is cheap. And just like when Mike Coffman dropped his bid to force a discharge petition to vote on legislation to protect undocumented DREAMer students, Cory Gardner is getting credit that the facts of the situation do not appear to warrant.

If and when that changes, we’ll gratefully acknowledge it. But it hasn’t happened yet.

Top Ten Stories of 2017 #1: Cory Gardner’s Slow-Motion Career Crash

Senator Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) rolled out his “angry face” in 2017.

(Yeah, yeah, it’s January 10th. At least we finished this — Colorado Pols)

How bad was 2017 for Cory Gardner? Consider this: When Gardner materialized in the Philippines in June glad-handing a murderous dictator, it wasn’t even the low point of his year.

The biggest Colorado political story of 2017 was the slow-motion destruction of Sen. Cory Gardner’s political career. The Yuma Republican was heralded as a rising star in the GOP when he was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2014, and the hype grew to such extreme measures that Gardner was even mentioned as a potential candidate for Vice President in 2016. But after a terrible 12 months as a member of the Senate Republican leadership, it’s fair to wonder whether Gardner can even hold his own seat in 2020.

In the last couple of years, Gardner has traveled the country supporting various Republican candidates in a transparent attempt to raise his own national profile. He was rewarded for his efforts in late 2016 when he was selected to head up the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) for 2018 – a job he had lobbied for back when it seemed absurd that Donald Trump might get elected to the Presidency. Gardner figured that he would have little trouble guiding the NRSC to victory in 2018 with Hillary Clinton in the White House, but now it looks like he’ll be the guy in charge when Republicans lose their Senate majority in November.

Gardner’s struggles at the helm of the NRSC are killing his political reputation, with damaging charges of voter-list theft the cherry on top of a terrible year trying to raise money for the organization. By the end of 2017, the White House was openly fretting about Gardner’s fundraising problems at the NRSC.

But it wasn’t just trouble with the NRSC that plagued Gardner in 2017. He was pummeled for most of the year over his inexplicable refusal to hold a town hall event in Colorado – a strange strategic decision that caused endless headaches for the Senator and led to the creation of a famous cardboard version of the Yuma Republican. When Gardner finally faced Colorado voters in mid-August after some 500 days of avoiding them…well, let’s just say people were justifiably pissed off. It doesn’t help Gardner’s cause that his Senate offices have basically stopped trying to respond to constituents.

Gardner’s approval ratings plummeted accordingly. By the end of the year, Gardner had become one of the 10 most disliked Senators in the entire country — ripped on social media and mocked on late-night television as a blathering stooge for Senate Republicans. Vocal Colorado Republicans began to attack Gardner as well, and national conservative voices became pointed critics.

It’s telling that Gardner isn’t listed anymore as a potential “swing vote” in national stories – not after the way he embraced every iteration of a failed attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act while trying to explain his actions with loads of gibberish to the media. This is a problem for Gardner’s made-up “moderate” image, and it indicates the extent to which reporters – with the exception of Gardner transcriber/CBS4 reporter Shaun Boyd — are no longer buying this presentation.

As the 2018 year in politics gets underway, Gardner is trying hard to present himself as some sort of Weed Warrior while also shining Donald Trump’s shoes and hoping nobody notices the contradictions. In other words, Gardner has no idea how he is going to extricate himself from the political morass he stumbled into in 2017. His best hope is just that 2018 can’t possibly be any worse than the year he just finished.

Incumbent House Republicans Abandoning Ship

Democrats need to capture 24 seats in 2018 to re-take control of the House of Representatives. With the news today that California Rep. Darrell Issa will retire in 2018 rather than seek re-election, there are now 32 incumbent Republican Members of Congress who are walking away from office after this year.

As CNN’s Chris Cillizza explains:

Veteran Republicans — especially those in potentially competitive seats — are opting to head for the exits rather than remain in a Congress where, if the GOP retains control this November, they would be positioned to continue to wield considerable influence.

Issa and [Ed] Royce joins Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida and Dave Reichert of Washington as Republican House members abandoning House seats Clinton won in 2016. There’s also a handful of other seats — Charlie Dent’s in Pennsylvania, Dave Trott’s in Michigan, Frank LoBiondo’s in New Jersey — where Trump won but the underlying political realities of the districts suggest Democrats will make a major play to win them this fall.

In each of those cases, the retiring members are simply walking away from Congress. They aren’t running for another higher office. They aren’t leaving to enter the Trump administration. They don’t have cushy, high-paying jobs lined up. They are just leaving.

The average seat loss for a President’s party in his first mid-term election is 23 seats…but since 1962 that number jumps to 40 for a President with an approval rating below 50%. Issa and other Republican incumbents seem to be making the determination that they would rather leave office on their own terms than face losing their seats in what is increasingly looking like a Democratic wave in 2018.

Polis-Backed Candidate Takes Office After Big Oil Felony Fiasco

Eddie Mirick (R).

The Greeley Tribune’s Tyler Silvy bookends a story we’ve been following out of Greeley ever since last November’s municipal elections–Eddie Mirick, a Republican city council candidate lavishly supported by oil and gas “dark money” group Vital for Colorado, will not take office after a judge determined that a felony conviction on Mirick’s record violates the city charter’s qualifications to serve.

Replacing Mirick on the Greeley City Council, as Silvy reports, is his opponent in last November’s elections, Stacy Suniga:

Stacy Suniga’s campaign for a Greeley City Council seat is finally complete more than two months after Election Day, as the council on Tuesday voted to appoint Suniga to the council seat vacated by her opponent, convicted felon Eddie Mirick…

Suniga will be sworn in Tuesday to serve as the city council’s at-large representative until November 2019, when she’ll be able to run for election.

More than 7,000 Greeley residents voted for Suniga on Nov. 7, about 300 fewer than voted for Mirick just days after The Tribune first reported Mirick’s criminal past…

The Greeley City Charter says the council must appoint someone to fill a vacant seat, but it doesn’t prescribe a process.

Just a few months ago, the council took applications and conducted interviews. But with the shadow of the city’s failure to properly vet Mirick still hanging over the council, members chose to immediately appoint Suniga.

Normally-sleepy Greeley city council races became hotly controversial last fall after a local front group wholly funded by energy industry political group Vital for Colorado spent tens of thousands of dollars to blast three candidates who had received $500 each from Rep. Jared Polis of Boulder. With Polis running for governor in 2018, the oil and gas industry seized on his small donations as a proxy experiment–to see if Polis’ brand could be toxified in a town where the industry has a lot of clout.

The industry’s disproportionate spending in favor of Mirick was able to swing this race by 300 votes, after the Tribune reported on the felony conviction too late to change the course of a mail-ballot election in which many voters cast their ballots well before Election Day. But as soon as it became clear that Mirick had no backup for his claims that this felony conviction had been reduced to a misdemeanor, things started to unravel quickly despite the city council’s initial failure to take action.

Today, it’s obvious that both the Greeley City Council and the oil and gas industry’s premiere statewide political action group erred severely in failing to adequately vet Mirick’s record–the industry after supporting him in the election, and then the council for failing to act on news reports documenting Mirick’s unfitness to serve. The first-round appointment of Suniga to the seat and the refund of legal costs to the plaintiffs in the lawsuit filed due to the city’s inaction are the clearest possible admissions of how badly the city of Greeley dropped the ball.

As for Vital for Colorado? They did their reputation, and their agenda, no favors either.

Gardner Sets “High” Bar For Releasing Justice Nominees

Learning about Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ decision to rescind the Obama-era protections at the Justice Department that allowed individual states to legalize marijuana for medical and recreational use, Sen. Cory Gardner flew into a rage from the well of the U.S. Senate last week–threatening in explicit terms to hold up every nominee for the Department of Justice unless the Cole Memorandum is reinstated as the operative guidance for U.S. Attorneys on marijuana prosecutions.

We think.

The specifics of what Gardner are said are very important, since he is reportedly meeting with Sessions tomorrow to discuss the situation. After which, depending on how that meeting goes, Gardner will either lift his hold on Justice Department nominees or allow them to stand pending Sessions reconsidering his position.


GARDNER: I agree with President Trump, that this decision should be left up to the people of Colorado and othere states. And I call on Attorney General Sessions to explain to me why President Trump was wrong in 2016 and what changed their minds. And that they reverse their decision to withdraw and rescind the Cole memorandum. And that they reimplement and reinstate the Cole memorandum. [Pols emphasis] And until that happens, I think I am obligated by the people of Colorado to take all steps necessary to protect the state of Colorado. And their rights.

And that’s why I will be putting today a hold on every single nomination from the Department of Justice. Until Attorney General Jeff Sessions lives up to the commitment that he made to me in my confirmation–my pre-confirmation meeting with him, the conversation we had that was specifically about this issue of state’s rights and Colorado. Until he lives up to that commitment, I will be holding all nominations to the Department of Justice. The people of Colorado deserve answers. The people of Colorado deserve their will to be respected.

Madam chair–Madam President–I yield the floor and not the absence of a quorum.

Now, you can read this statement as Gardner laying out very precisely what Sessions needs to do to see Gardner’s nominee holds released: reinstating the Cole memo. The only problem is that Gardner, being an infamously crafty crafter of weaselly statements, separated his specific comments about the Cole memo from his announcement that he will hold up Justice Department nominees. You could, in a strained but literal reading, see Gardner only promising to maintain the holds until Sessions lives up to some unspecified “commitment.” Was that commitment specifically to preserve the Cole memo?

It all gets kind of, you know, weaselly.

The reason we’re asking these specific questions is simple: the chances that Sessions will actually reverse course and reimplement the Cole memo after meeting with Gardner seem very slim, but the odds that Gardner will come out of his meeting with Sessions tomorrow with those holds intact are even slimmer. Much like Rep. Mike Coffman’s abortive threat to force a vote on protections for undocumented students last summer, the most likely outcome here is, after receiving lavish praise for “standing up” to the Trump administration, Gardner folds without actually accomplishing anything.

And if that’s what happens, those who issued said lavish praise should do a follow-up.